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1—MARCH-5-ARCHBISHOP-TARTAGLIA

Archbishop at accident funeral: ‘What happened was random, cruel and meaningless’

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, president of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, preached the following homily at the funeral Mass of bin lorry crash casualties Jack and Lorraine Sweeney and of Erin McQuade at St Patrick's, Dumbarton this morning:

As we gather at this funeral Mass, I want first of all to offer the deepest and most prayerful sympathies of everyone here on the death of Erin McQuade to her mother and father, Jacqueline and Matthew; and with them to her young brothers Liam and Aidan, and to her wee sister Niamh. Erin died in the tragic incident which took place at George Square in the centre of Glasgow on the afternoon of Monday 22nd December 2014. We know that Erin’s tragic death has devastated you. We all want to reach out to you with love and re-assurance. We all want to gather round you to uphold you. We want to mourn with you. We want to pray with you for Erin. We offer our most heartfelt sympathies also to all of Erin’s relatives and family, to her young friends, and to all those who love her and mourn her. May she rest in peace.

To pile tragedy on tragedy, and sadness on sadness, Erin’s grandparents, Jack and Lorraine Sweeney, died in that same tragic incident. We offer our prayerful sympathies to her two daughters, Jacqueline and Yvonne, and to Lorraine’s sister Anne, and to all relatives, family and friends and to all who mourn their passing in such terrible circumstances. May they rest in peace. Jack and Lorraine’s daughters, Jacqueline and Yvonne are also Erin’s heart-broken Mum and sorrowing aunt. This is a family devastated by the tragic deaths all at once of three much-loved members. They were struck down in front of Jacqueline’s eyes. A festive and happy Christmas shopping excursion to Glasgow had become the worst of nightmares. What happened was random, cruel and meaningless. Is it possible to make any sense of it? Erin was a young woman who practised her faith. So were her grandparents, Jack and Lorraine. Their family has always put their faith at the very centre of their lives. They all came to Mass in this church. We are here this morning as a people of faith making an act of faith and trust in God, asking God to console broken hearts and to embrace Erin, Jack and Lorraine with love. So can our faith make sense of such a heart-breaking tragedy?

In the Gospel Jesus says to Jacqueline and Matthew, to Liam and Aidan and Niamh, to Yvonne, to Anne, to all the bereaved and to all of us: Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. And in these sad circumstances, we all need rest and comfort and re-assurance and light. The God of whom Jesus speaks is not cruel, vengeful or capricious. The God whom Jesus reveals is loving, merciful and just. “Come to me and I will give you rest.” The God of whom Jesus speaks, whom we know as Our Father, only wants the good for his children in this life and in the world to come. And so God created us for life and freedom. And in this life we are free. We move as we wish. We are not puppets on a string, not robots controlled from afar. At the same time we are not indestructible, not immune from forces which are too much for us. Our bodies cannot survive everything here on earth. These are the limitations of the human condition. But we are not meant for limitations. We are meant for life and glory. And in the resurrection, neither random forces nor chance tragedy, nor serious illness, not even death itself will have any power over us. In the resurrection, our bodies will be glorified and will be filled with eternal life. This is the hope that Jesus Christ – and He alone – holds out to us. This is what awaits Erin, and Jack and Lorraine, and today we speed them on with our prayers and supplications.

I want to say a special word of condolence to Erin’s young friends. Erin’s Mum and Dad tell me that she has some lovely friends, whom she grew up, whom she went to school with, and others whom she met more recently. I know how much her death will affect you. Her Mum and Dad tell me that you brought joy to Erin’s life. They thank you for that. She will be so pleased that you remember her with fondness and that you are shedding tears for her. She would do that for you. Friendship blessed you all. It is good that you will never forget her and that you will always remember her in prayer. Just as her life was opening up and she was spreading her wings, cruel fate took her away. But you can be sure that she has not dropped into nothingness or non-existence. She has gone to God who will love and protect her until you see her again in the life of the world to come. So, my dear young friends, please do not let grief overwhelm you because what God has in store for Erin is unimaginable light and life and joy.

Our hope is the same for Jack and Lorraine, a very happily married couple for 45 years and more. Such a great witness to married love and life. I had a long chat with Jacqueline and Yvonne about their Mum and Dad. They agreed that they were just right for each other. They used a phrase which sums it up: “They would have ruined another couple.” I thought that was so graphic. From all that was said to me, what stands out is that they were responsible for creating a loving family who were very close to each other. Their last day on this earth said it all. Jack and Lorraine, Jacqueline and Erin went on a Christmas shopping trip. Three generations of the same loving family. They died as they lived – together. It is fitting that they should share the same funeral Mass. They will be buried in the same grave. And, we pray, they will enter heaven together, hand in hand. And we pray too that Jack and Lorraine will be re-united in heaven with their other daughter Paula, who died as an infant. May they all rest in peace.

I don’t think that Jack and Lorraine will mind if I reserve my last words for Erin, their beloved grand-daughter. She was a light-hearted, caring, family-loving girl, very dear to her young brothers and sister who have tried to be so brave over these days, and so supportive to their Mum and Dad, but are deeply saddened and are missing her sorely. Erin was part of a community here in Dumbarton where people know each other. Family, school and parish were her reference points to which she constantly returned. She was just beginning to spread her wings, going off to university, and just starting to experience the world outside family and community. I am told that, among other things, she was an artistic girl which would have been a great accomplishment for the future. She was such a joy to her Mum and Dad. Jacqueline and Matt, you have been so deeply saddened by Erin’s death. It goes without saying that you will never forget her. You will always mourn for her. You will always feel the searing pain of her loss and you will always cry for her especially in your intimate moments. But in a way you will also welcome that pain and those tears because they will fill you again with the warmth of the wonderful daughter you will always love.

Matt and Jacqueline thank God for their child, Erin, their lovely daughter. With tearful hearts, but with faith and hope, today they place her again in God’s hands from whom she came and to whom we are all destined to return. May she, Erin, together with her grandparents, Jack and Lorraine, rest in peace. Amen.

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